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The Mrs. Bradley Mysteries: Speedy Death

MYSTERY! Host Diana Rigg Turns Detective

Emmy and Tony Award-winning actress Diana Rigg celebrates her decade-long affiliation with MYSTERY! by jumping into the game herself, starring as the glamorous, wickedly outspoken Mrs. Adela Bradley in The Mrs. Bradley Mysteries: Speedy Death.

Set in the highly mannered world of 1920s England -- with sumptuous costumes, lavish period detail, and toe-tapping tunes to match -- Speedy Death introduces a sleuth who lives life to the fullest and is way ahead of her time. The "Mrs." in Mrs. Bradley is just a formality (Adela shed her husband years ago) and the well-traveled, well-appointed, oft-liaisoned divorcée makes her way through life with enormous amounts of money, cheek, and smarts, dabbling in everything from psychoanalysis to toxicology to her own brand of pre-feminism. At her side, through thick and thin, is her devoted chauffeur, confidant and crimesolving sidekick, George Moody (Neil Dudgeon).

Speedy Death finds the pair at Chayning Court, the splendid country estate of the Bing family: widower Alistair Bing (John Alderton), who still carries a torch for Adela from their university days; his daughter Eleanor (Emma Fielding), Adela's wheelchair-bound goddaughter, who has just announced her engagement to the explorer Everard Mountjoy (William Oxborrow); Bing's son, Garde (Tristan Gemmill); and, to Alistair's consternation, Garde's latest romantic entanglement, Miss Dorothy Manners (Eleanor Tremain). Adding tension to the mix is the unexpected arrival of Bertie Philipson (Tom Butcher), with whom Eleanor was once desperately in love and who was driving the car the night of the accident that crippled her.

When Mountjoy is found dead in the bathtub, the police rule his death a tragic but accidental drowning, resulting from the deceased's narcolepsy. "But if Mountjoy had a blackout and drowned," muses Mrs. B, "why is there water on both sides of the bath?"

While the Bings see to Mountjoy's funeral, Mrs. Bradley and George return to the scene of the fatal bath and find conclusive proof that the explorer was, in fact, murdered -- but by whom? When Bertie is caught in an attempt on Dorothy's life, it seems obvious that he is the murderer. Or is he? Mrs. Bradley's investigation reveals a chain of blackmail, secret liaisons, buried evidence -- and, thanks to her immense powers of observation (and deliberate obfuscation), an unexpected, and surprisingly poignant, conclusion.

Adding tartness to the tongue-slightly-in-cheek tone of The Mrs. Bradley Mysteries are Mrs. B's droll, straight-to-camera asides, in which she not only comments on the action at hand, but offers her acerbic take on everything from marriage ("one of those things it's best to get over and done with early in life -- like chicken pox") to the countryside ("a soggy sort of place where animals and birds wander about uncooked") to children ("children disappointing their parents is one of the immutable laws of nature . . . mine became a lawyer") to fame ("I'm never entirely sure if I'm famous or notorious. Someone once said 'fame' is to live in poverty and end up as a statue. Naturally, I prefer to be notorious").

That novelist Gladys Mitchell (1901-1983) succeeds in capturing the glamour, virtues, and vices of the Jazz Age shouldn't be a surprise: Mitchell, a former schoolteacher, originally published Speedy Death in 1929 -- the first in what would become a 66-novel string of Mrs. Bradley stories. In their day, Mitchell's bestselling mysteries made the sleuth-sophisticate a household name in the league of Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot. A member of the Detection Club, along with Agatha Christie and Dorothy L. Sayers, Gladys Maude Winifred Mitchell was awarded the highly coveted Crime Writers Association's Silver Dagger in 1976. She continued writing until her death in 1983.

Said P. D. James of her fellow author: "Miss Mitchell began her career in the golden age of detective fiction and has maintained her highly individual talent through all the genre's vicissitudes."

The Mrs. Bradley Mysteries is a coproduction of WGBH Boston and BBC AMERICA. The screenplay is written by Simon Booker, based on the novel Speedy Death by Gladys Mitchell. Audrey Cooke is director; producer is Deborah Jones. Executive producers are Ruth Caleb and Mal Young for the BBC and Rebecca Eaton for WGBH. The Mrs. Bradley Mysteries is presented on MYSTERY! by WGBH Boston. Funding for MYSTERY! is provided by public television viewers. MYSTERY! is closed captioned for deaf and hard-of-hearing viewers by The Caption Center at WGBH Boston. Narrated descriptions of MYSTERY! programs are provided by Descriptive Video Service® (DVS®), a national service of WGBH.

Executive producer for MYSTERY! is Rebecca Eaton and Diana Rigg is series host.

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